Brouhaha Over Hyperflexion Overshadowing the Progressive Medication Scale Issue

From Fran Jurga’s post, “The Quiet Americans”

For whatever reason, Americans are neither rallying to protest nor hurrying to embrace the announcement of changes in FEI medication rules two weeks ago that ended the long years of zero tolerance of medications for all horses competing in FEI-sanctioned events. It’s not like Americans not to have something to say.

This is in distinct contrast to how Americans responded emotionally and emphatically to the viral “blue tongue” dressage video that circulated on the Internet last month. It was impossible to find anyone who hadn’t seen it and didn’t have an opinion—and most of that was negative.

The relatively few opinions that are posted on American forums and chat rooms so far regarding the FEI’s medication policy change seem to be contradictory: it’s not ok to pull on the curb rein of a dressage horse in the warm-up ring, but it is ok to make a radical switch in medication policy. A micro incident with one horse excites the masses; a macro policy change affecting the highest level of sport brings a shrug, if that.

Fran hypothesizes that the subtlety and complexity of low medication levels as allowed by the new FEI rules will so confuse the American public that they will not become involved in the debate. As many Americans have not followed the international scene, they may even be unaware that there was ever a radical difference in drug policies between US competitions and those in other countries. This gap in attention and response is reflected in the responses to the Jurga Report. According to Fran, 21 readers commented on the November 21 post of the Blue Tongue incident and accompanying YouTube video, roundly condemning the rider, while the news of the medication report garnered only eight comments. Those eight comments were split in their support for for therapeutic administration of low levels of Bute vs. cynicism about the pharmacological corruption of horse sports.

While researching the concerns of the Europeans, I found out about the strict equine welfare laws in some nations and also the rather dark history of the use of medication in FEI events before the all-out ban. I think it is comparable to the debates about legalizing gambling in some states in the USA. The states that have it don’t think it is a big deal; those that don’t are horrified by the possible Pandora’s Box of evils associated with it. Both sides have valid points of view.

Fran states that what is missing from the debate about the use of medications in FEI competitions is a unified worldwide agreement of the specific ways in which medication affects the performance horse and, by extension, the reputation of equestrian sports. “Kudos to the vets on both sides who are willing to speak up. The elephant in this room is a clear definition of the responsibility for equine welfare, not a level of Bute or Banamine.”

Therapeutic levels of medication are nothing new to US competition, since USEF rules for competitions within the U.S. for most disciplines allow low levels of certain medications. That’s the American system; our veterinary advisers disagree with their European colleagues and believe that allowing medication in performance horses is in the best interest of the horse…Yet, when the big events came, the Americans always met–or valiantly tried to meet–the challenge of competing on the international stage without the same drugs they used at home. The frequent success of “clean” American horses under FEI rules often goes unmentioned and may be all the more extraordinary.

All that will change in 2010 when the world comes to the US for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. We can expect plenty of international riders to be competing in the US over the summer months leading up to the Games. They will bring not just their best horses but also their politics and their opinions with them and Americans may learn, at last, that we are part of a larger horse world where not everyone thinks the same as we do…There are 300 days to go…I hope that is time enough for some compromise or peacemaking at the highest international levels that will appease all parties and make the first WEG in the USA the wonderful celebration it was always meant to be.

Fran has provided three downloadable reference documents on the FEI’s new medication policy document on the new medication policies of the FEI. As Fran says, STAY INFORMED.

Questions and Answers

Prohibited Substance List

Belgian Vet Praises New Med Policy

© 2009 – 2011, enlightenedhorsemanship. All rights reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Kimberly Cox Carneal
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Download PDF
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook

13 Responses to “Brouhaha Over Hyperflexion Overshadowing the Progressive Medication Scale Issue”

  1. There ought to be no compromise and a return or the consolidation of ZERO Tolerance. Dr. Kellon’s Open letter to the FEI makes it very clear why.

  2. I completely understand the concepts outlined in Dr. Kellon’s
    letter. However, I felt a twinge of regret when reading Fran’s post where she points out that having the WEG here in the US was supposed to be a triumph, filled with joy and excitement. I fear that these issues will overshadow the opportunity to meet riders and trainers with other points of view on common ground.
    That being said, I agree with you that the ONLY common ground must be the good of the horse.
    Let’s hope these issues get worked out before the games.

  3. Looking at the articles that you linked to, this seems like a much less clear-cut issue than that of the “blue tongue”. There may be a case for admitting small levels of NSAIDs. After all, other working horses (at riding centres, on ranches, etc) perform strenuous work on occasions medicated. I know from operating a riding holiday centre that there is a judgement call about “what is acceptable” when it comes to working a mildly off-colour horse. Perhaps competing is more of a discretionary activity than getting an horse back off a remote trail with a guest? But still it refers to the livelihood of horse and rider.

    A while back, a farrier told me of some tricks used to get a “footy” showjumper sound – for instance, cover the sole and frog with soft veterinary epoxy. Is that acceptable? Is it any different, ethically, to using bute? Has it eliminated a source of discomfort or just masked it?

    As you say, the objective has to be the good of the horse.

    The key, I think, has to be discerning where a treatment alleviates a passing discomfort, and where it is masks a pathology.

    • Hey there whp,
      Yes, I don’t know if Fran would agree with me, but I believe wholeheartedly that “competing is more of a discretionary activity than getting an horse back off a remote trail with a guest.” Competing is the HUMAN’S choice. The horses do not have a say. It’s a human endeavor, feeding human needs. The horse is a tool. Some horses enjoy their jobs, like those of Tamara at The Barb Wire, and others, as in the Blue Tongue video, clearly despise it. We have always to keep in mind the heart of the horse and the needs of the situation. In the case you mention, safety first!
      Masking discomfort/pathology for the purposes of competition is plain wrong. The farrier you mention probably gets accolades from his clients, and the horses are likely momentarily grateful for the relief from pain, but it doesn’t solve the problem, and the work in competition no doubt adds to the pathology.
      Here is where keeping the horse in mind comes in to play. It is not a bicycle, It cannot be repaired along the side of the road for another handy 100 miles. We can alleviate discomfort, address pathology, but we HAVE TO know when to hold them back from competition, and how to compete with compassion for the animal we are “using.”
      “The key, I think, has to be discerning where a treatment alleviates a passing discomfort, and where it is masks a pathology.” I agree!

  4. “There may be a case for admitting small levels of NSAIDs” When you read Dr.Kellon’s letter and understand what bute is, then no, there is no case for giving bute to top level competition horses so that they can go into the show ring and perform extremely physically demanding work.
    I would argue that if you have horses on your string that require bute to work then, if its a temporary problem the bute should be accompanied by time off. If you give bute for a chronic issue, you want to look at alternatives because bute if given daily starts damaging the joins, creating more of what you are using bute to cure. The best alternative I have found for long term management was Uckele’s Devil Claw plus. I am sure there are other options.

  5. Well in truth I was very easy on the horses in my string, when I had one, and I never did have one that needed bute to work. Probably that is why I didn’t make a lot of money – I didn’t “sweat my assets” as a former colleague used to say (about running trains and buses profitably). Some riding centres do, and holiday centres come to mind where a string lasts a season or two – not more. That outfitter is motivated by winning (= making money), a competitor likewise wants to win. So there is a sippery slope, and feet start to slide once winning becomes more important than equine welfare.

    Where are the accolades for welfare? Wouldn’t it be good to see a competitor commended for the right decision NOT to work a horse? As it is, sponsors want to see a horse compete irrespective, people on riding holidays complain if the trails are “too slow”. The agents told me all too often to “make the rides faster” and that “I should expect a high turnover of horses”.

    I don’t think that bute, used correctly, necessarily is an evil. I am getting a horse over a spavin issue (small joints which will fuse) and a little bute combined with turnout and very gentle work (walking around) is valid. Obviously the only “winning” is him happy and comfortable. But then I am fortunate that I can “compete” in the workplace and perhaps “win” a bonus if I am lucky. (Not much, I don’t work for a bank!)

    • “Where are the accolades for welfare?” You bring up a good point. Sport is all about accolades. You do it to WIN. LIkewise, business operates under the assumption that the operator will be rewarded. Strenuously protecting the welfare of a string of horses can get expensive, this cutting into the accolades/rewards or making it impossible to make a profit. That’s why we see so many strings of worn out, busted trail horses. And horses competing with the aid of potentially banned substances.
      It’s a dilemma, to be sure.
      With reference to competition, whp, how would you see someone being rewarded for protecting the welfare of a horse in lieu of pushing to win?

  6. People compete to win, for sure, but most spectators also want to see good sportsmanship. So the overall quality of the competition does matter to a great many people – and malpractice / welfare abuses / injuries / etc all detract from this.

    It’s an interesting subject, how to commend a competitor who makes the right choice on welfare grounds. It is an honourable thing to protect the welfare of an animal, and the competitor who performs such an act deserves to receive an honour alongside those whose skills were rewarded by winning on a sound horse. Perhaps the veterinarians who oversee a competition might be given the power to issue a commendation? There would need to be some guidelines, which ought to apply universally across competitions.

    A process of this type would have several benefits: 1) competitors might be more open to the vets about what they do; 2) withdrawing a horse would be seen as less of a “failure”; 3) there will be less temptation to try a short-term fix to make a horse look sound.

    It would, of course, require the powers to be to recognise that perhaps all has not been well to date. But the point is to move forward, not to dwell on the past. Seeking to do better should not become a source of stigma.

    • whp
      In many competitions, there are all sorts of avenues for judging. Why not allow “the veterinarians who oversee a competition might be given the power to issue a commendation? There would need to be some guidelines, which ought to apply universally across competitions.”? Great idea!!!!
      The benefits, as you outline them, are far-reaching and profound.
      All HAS NOT been well to date. This is evident in the controversies we now witness. Moving forward must entail entertaining notions such as yours.
      Seeking to do better should not become a source of stigma. Hear hear!

  7. Info on Devil’s Claw:

    http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/DevilsClaw.htm

    Uckele had a best seller version for a while called Devil’s Claw Plus.

    Rewarding best practices was one of the recomendations I made to a horse org as a means to encourage competitors to take make sometimes difficult decisions between competition and equine wellness. I am glad there are a lot of us like minded people who are looking not so much to critic but also to provide positive alternatives. By reducing the polarization, information can filter in, and reflexion can occur rather than reaction.

  8. Oops.I had forgotten my name.

    Info on Devil’s Claw:

    http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/DevilsClaw.htm

    Uckele had a best seller version for a while called Devil’s Claw Plus.

    I think the manner you use bute WPH is what the doctor ordered. You are using therapeutically in a recovery program, not as a means to extract more work out of a compromised horse.

    Rewarding best practices was one of the recomendations I made to a horse org as a means to encourage competitors to make sometimes difficult decisions between competition and equine wellness. I am glad there are a lot of us like minded people who are looking not so much to critic but also to provide positive alternatives. By reducing the polarization, information can filter in, and reflexion can occur rather than reaction.

    • I saw this product advertised. Would look into it if I had a horse who needed it. Alternatives are good to have in your toolkit. “Rewarding Best Practices” is a great way to reduce polarization. Let’s hope they listen. And to whp, let us hear more about your best practices.

Leave a Reply

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.